Last night, we watched the film Meek's Cutoff. Various reviews have said it moves at a meditative pace, which may be an understatement. In other words, it's slow, slow, slow, and I'm still not sure what to make of the ending.
Why do I mention it here? Long term readers of this blog may remember my fascination with frontier life and pioneers, a fascination born of my love for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the books she wrote. This movie does the best job I've ever seen at depicting what life was like for this band of pioneers heading west.
The covered wagons were so tiny and so fragile. I cannot imagine walking west in the clothes that the women wore; I can't imagine doing much more than sitting on the porch! I can't imagine how the sparse diets that the pioneers ate prepared them for their hike. But most important, this film shows how scarce the water resources were and how the presence or absence of water could make or break the group.
The movie made me think about what would compel these people to put a small collection of belongings in a fragile wagon and head off across the continent. I wondered what a similar analogy would be in modern life.
This movie also made me profoundly grateful to be born when I was, to be living in the first world in this century.
Here we are a week from Christmas, so let me mention that it's the birthday of Charles Wesley, who wrote "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," which might be one of your favorite Christmas carols. Today's entry on The Writer's Almanac website reminds us that Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. I wrote about Charles Wesley a year ago in this post on my theology blog.
How did he do write this many hymns, in addition to his evangelizing work? By writing, of course, "averaging 10 lines a day for 50 years." So, if you've ever wondered what you would accomplish if you simply wrote 10 lines a day, you'd end up with a rich trove at the end of 50 years. Ten lines a day--surely we have time to do that!
For those of us wondering if writers can accomplish anything more long lasting than a collection of writing, let us take a minute to remember the life of Vaclav Havel, the playwright who helped bring freedom to Eastern Europe, specifically Czechoslovakia, who has died at age 75. This wonderful article reminds us of the importance of his political work and the eloquence of his writing: "Havel's plays were banned as hard-liners installed by Moscow snuffed out every whiff of rebellion. But he continued to write, producing a series of underground essays that stand with the work of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov as the most incisive and eloquent analyses of what communism did to society and the individual."
I remember in the early 80's, during the Christmas season, when President Reagan encouraged us to light candles in support of the Polish Solidarity Movement. It seemed like such a small, insignificant thing, to light a candle against a repressive regime--and yet, how the world would change in one brief century!
So, let us light our candles against all oppression. Let us remember that many people in our "modern" world are still living a primitive Meek's Cutoff kind of existence. Let us remember that although the Soviet Union has collapsed, we have no shortage of repressive regimes. Let us write at least 10 lines every day that will inspire the world to move towards the darkness and away from the light. Let us always have the resources we need and the freedom to do just that!
The Summer of Reading
4 weeks ago